Monday, October 24, 2016

Artist Night at the Opera - Marjorie Taylor

After Marjorie Taylor earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Graphic Art, she embarked upon a career as an illustrator and graphic designer. She designed promotional, educational and advertising materials for a variety of clients. Working with various educational publishers, she designed and illustrated children’s books, and designed college textbooks.

Marjorie was inspired to return to her first love of painting after visiting many great museums while on a bicycling odyssey through Europe. She then embarked upon a fine art oil painting education by studying with a variety of artists, at which time she began to paint en plein air. Seeking to combine her love of painting with a passion for travel and exploration, her plein air painting adventures have taken her across North America, Central America, Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa. She was invited to participate in national plein air painting competitions, had her award-winning work represented by a variety of galleries throughout the country, was juried into exhibitions at museums, universities and other venues. Her paintings are held in public and private collections throughout the USA, Mexico, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Japan.

Marjorie is currently searching for new opportunities to synthesize her years of experience as a designer, illustrator, oil painter, teacher, and world traveler. Her goal is to find ways to use her art to help make the world a better place. She is currently teaching art to children at a foster home in Tijuana and continues to paint, while writing and illustrating children’s books.

She is a member of the California Art Club and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Please visit her website at or follow taylorpaintings on Instagram.

Artist Night at the Opera - Meredith Gimbel

As a grub, Meridth McKean Gimbel could be found reading books during math class, writing stories during lunchtime, and drawing pictures all over her arms and legs (if she ran out of paper). She was pretty delighted when she found out you could do that sort of thing for a living. So she got a BFA in Illustration from BYU. While at college, she had the good fortune of interning with Brad Holland and Brett Helquist. In 2015 she received the SCBWI LA National Conference mentorship award. Meridth lives in Southern California with her husband, kids, and a paper eating corgi. You can learn more about her here

Friday, October 21, 2016

Artist Night at the Opera - Laurel Latto

This week we invited artist Laurel Latto to live sketch our Cinderella rehearsals. Born and raised in southern California, Laurel grew up in L.A. and settled in San Diego after attending college at UCSD where she majored in Biochemistry and minored in Film and Video. In 2001, she was awarded “Volunteer of the Month” by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for her volunteer work illustrating a teacher’s manual “Share the Care” for dental health awareness.  Recognizing her unique skill set she started, DonnaBellas (  Under her company, she has done private commission paintings, murals, storyboards, and online stores ( and

Laurel also pursued a career in clinical research, focusing on new treatments for cancer, but quickly recognized her art could help here as well. In 2007 she incorporated her non-profit, “DonnaBellas Angels” ( with the motto “Medicine Heals the Body, Art Heals the Soul”.  The non-profit features inspirational art for mental health wellness.  Through donations of art prints and art royalty use, DonnaBellas Angels has enjoyed international success.  Her art is featured in many prominent cancer clinics across the United States.  Laurel has started a new art project “Awareness Gallery” ( that features artistically styled awareness ribbons.

Laurel is now focusing on pursuing her career in children’s books as both an author and illustrator.  She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Ten Questions with Lauren McNeese

Photo by Kelly Williams
The elegant Lauren McNeese shows poise on and off the stage. We asked ten questions to get to know her better.

1. What was your last gig before coming to San Diego?
My last job was Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Intermountain Opera in Bozeman Montana

2. Can you tell us a little about your role in Cenerentola?
I play the role of Cenerentola. I like to think of her as a gentle but spirited survivor. Life has thrown her a few curve balls and her innate wisdom and natural tendency towards kindness helps keep her from falling into despair. She knows who she is and will not bend her character to become someone else in order to please others. I envision her having a wonderful sense of humor and an infectious laugh!!

3. Do you personally relate to your character? If so, how ?
I do relate to her softer spirit I think and her willingness to forgive. I love the aura of grace that surrounds her character.

4. Are there any dream roles that you would love to sing and why? And since we're dreaming it doesn't even need to be in your fach.
I would love to sing Charlotte in Werther and Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier!

5. What was your introduction to opera and how did you decide this was the path you wanted to pursue?
My mother bought me The Magic Flute when I was a freshman in high school and I fell in love immediately! I had no idea music like that existed. I saw Barber of Seville a few years later and that sealed the deal.

6. Who is your favorite opera singer in the game right now?

Nina Stemme. I had the pleasure of singing in a Ring Cycle with her and it was an inspiration, an experience I will never forget.

7. Fill in the blank: "If I was not an opera singer, I would be __________"
"If I was not an opera singer, I would be a nutritionist and own a yoga studio!"

8. Do you have a book next to your bed? What is it? If you’re not a reader, how about a video game or NETFLIX series?
I am currently reading "Elizabeth I" by Margaret George. I am also making my way through Grey's Anatomy on's a definite addiction!!

9. Name three bands or artists on your iPod that aren't opera related.

I listen to the Wailin' Jennys Pandora station. It is filled with artists like Allision Krauss, Mamuse and Nickel Creek. I love gospel bluegrass!

10. What are you most looking forward to doing in San Diego while you’re in town?
I have always wanted to visit San Diego so I am super excited about having the opportunity to spend a month in town. I would love to go to the zoo and spend some time by the water!!

Lauren's Spotify Playlist:

Interview with Nic Reveles

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ten Questions with David Portillo

David Portillo, Tenor. Photo by Brian Kuhlmann
With a smile a mile wide and a humble personality, it's been a treat to get to know Houston native David Portillo this week. The cast arrived on Monday morning for the first day of music rehearsals with only two and a half weeks until opening night. While it's easy to get caught up in the pressure of learning staging, staying healthy, traveling, and always being "on" for press, David handles it all with charm and ease.  

We asked him about his role in La Cenerentola, what he's working on outside of San Diego, and a few off topic questions to mix things up a bit.

SD OPERA (SDO): What was your last gig before coming to San Diego?

David Portillo (DP): I am (currently) participating in a world premier of an opera titled 'Breaking the Waves' at Opera Philadelphia. I am playing the role of Dr. Richardson, the sympathetic aid to both protagonists of the story. The opera is based on the story from the movie of the same title directed by Lars von Trier.It was composed by the incredible Missy Mazzoli and libretto was written by Royce Vavrek.This piece has been so exciting to be a part of the past year-and-a-half in a couple of musical workshops, and last month of rehearsing the gorgeous production directed by James Darrah has been such a completely fulfilling journey.

SDO: In your own words, can you tell us a little about your role in La Cenerentola?

DP: Don Ramiro is a prince who is searching for his true love. As directed by Alidoro, he goes to Don Magifico's house dressed at his valet in order to find her. He immediately falls in love with Angelina because of her beauty and goodness. The rest of the opera he spends trying to win her love despite the oppression from Angelina's stepfather, a confusion of characters, and much beautiful music.

SDO: Do you personally relate to your character? If so, how ?

DP: I do believe Ramiro is a noble and genuine in his search for someone who is truly in love with him. I think that makes him very sympathetic, and his love for Cenerentola is very pure. That is a very good trait that I like in his character. He also is strong enough to fight back against the mean Don Magnifico to help his love.

SDO: Are there any dream roles that you would love to sing and why? And since we're dreaming it doesn't even need to be in your fach.

DP: I love the role of Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, and would love to sing his beautiful music and take the long character journey. He starts as a poor student who meets a 'Mephistopheles' character who takes him to success and popularity, then eventually to downfall and a madhouse. A similar role that I would like to sing is Gounod's Faust. Also, Nemorino in L'Elisir d'Amore is an filled with beautiful music that I would love to sing.

SDO: What was your introduction to opera and how did you decide this was the path you wanted to pursue?

DP: My introduction to opera wasn't until my senior year of high school when I visited my future undergraduate school and saw Cosi fan tutte performed by students at the school. It was a great way to enjoy future peers' performance, and hear what music I was going to be working on for my future voice lessons. I didn't know that this technique of singing and repertoire would be pivotal to my future, but I remember that night at the theater very well.

SDO: Who is your favorite opera singer in the game right now?

DP: As a tenor, I am a big fan of Lawrence 'Larry' Brownlee for his amazing facility in Rossini and bel canto repertoire. Sandrine Piau is a French soprano whose voice melts my heart, and Gerald Finley has a stunning presence and voice in everything I've ever seen. One of my favorite sopranos I've sung with is Susannah Biller who is singing Clorinda; she's an incredible singer.

SDO: Fill in the blank: "If I was not an opera singer, I would be __________"

DP: A choral director. I know, that's not that interesting. I was a choral education major in my undergraduate school, and I still love choral music. Singing with others is a passion, and I would try to do it as often as possible. That, or a travel agent.

SDO: Do you have a book next to your bed? What is it? If you’re not a reader, how about a video game or NETFLIX series?

DP: There's always an opera score or music that I'm trying to learn or memorize next to the bed. I'm not much of a reader for fun, but I love television and movies. I'm obsessed with re-watching episodes of Parks and Rec and the Office.

SDO: Name three bands or artists on your iPod that aren't opera related.

DP: I like to listen to a little bit of everything, but currently I am enjoying Dolly Parton, Drake, and Bjork.

SDO: What are you most looking forward to doing in San Diego while you’re in town?

DP: I am looking forward to being near the water and beaches. La Jolla is a destination that I would like see for many different spots, Pacific Beach, and the Mission Beach walk are also on the list. Also, I am going to HAVE to see the San Diego Zoo.

SDO: Just for fun - Would you rather always know how or always know why?

DP: Oof that's a hard one. I'd want to know how. Since I'm thinking about singing and that's all I think about apparently because I'm a tenor.. but in life I guess once you know learn how to do something, a lot of the reasoning behind why it's done, who it affects, and why it's needed is answered. But again I'm primarily thinking about technique.

SDO: Would you rather be a dragon or own a dragon?

DP: I would rather BE a dragon!

SDO: A burgler is in your house, what do you hope they steal?

DP: I have a cow-skin rug that I'm not very fond of but I have held on to it for awhile because of sentimental reasons. But every time I look at it, I ask myself "why am I keeping this?". I don't really know where to take it. So there's that, LOL. I think I needed you to ask me that so I can have the motivation to actually do something with it!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

10 Questions with Gary Thor Wedow

(Photo by Jonathan Timmes)
With such an impressive track record, it's hard to believe that it's taken this long to bring Gary Thor Wedow to San Diego. Wedow is currently a faculty member of the Julliard School and has been a frequent guest of Seattle Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Glimmerglass Opera, Portland Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Berkshire Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Opera Saratoga, Arizona Opera, Amherst Early Music Festival and Pittsburgh Opera among others. He was for many years associated with New York City Opera, leading the New York premiere of Telemann’s Orpheus, the groundbreaking Christopher Alden productions of Don Giovanni and Stephen Wadsworth’s Serse.

Since we can't wait for Maestro to take the podium for La Cenerentola in two weeks for rehearsals, we asked him a few questions to calm our senses and get further acquainted..
San Diego Opera (SDO): Thanks for helping us bring back the Aria Serious Blog, Maestro! What was your last gig before coming to San Diego? 

Gary Thor Wedow (GTW): The Dvorak Requiem with Berkshire Choral International---that was a bucket list experience, and right before that a long run of Gluck's Orphée getting Eurydice out of hell night after night at Des Moines Metro Opera with our beautiful Clorinda, Susanna Biller Kness as Eurydice.

SDO: Where does Rossini rank in your personal list of opera composers? 

GTW: At the very top. He is an Italian melodist with a keen classical sense of structure and a man of the theater with a marvelous sense of humor. He adored Bach, Haydn and Mozart---I certainly agree with his taste, and he tried to emulate them in his works while still pushing forward into new terrain. He said 'Mozart was the inspiration of my youth, the agony of my adulthood and the consolation of my old age.' Without Rossini, Italian opera would have been a very different animal.

SDO: What is your favorite musical moment in La Cenerentola? 

GTW: Just one? Alidoro's aria in E flat must be one of the greatest pieces of bel canto music written (E flat is the key of noble love, the Magic Flute key--it reoccurs again and again symbolically and colorfully in this opera), it challenges the singer immensely, but our Alidoro, Ashraf Sewailam sings it magnificently. La Cenerentola is about the Triumph of Goodness, and this glorious aria is a vindication of Cinderella's suffering and the crowning of her great goodness.

SDO: Your conducting repertoire includes a variety of classical periods, which is your favorite?

GTW: Do you know the 70s disco song: 'Love the One You're With', that's me! I believe musical style is a continuum and though hemlines may go up and down, certain values stay consistent. I love trying to find where things change and what things stay the same. Rossini is one of those moments when style was changing dramatically, string playing changed, the bow had changed, Paganini was the great virtuoso; but many values remained consistent. We have a disadvantage in that we look at music backwards through a faded looking glass. We look at Rossini through Verdi, Donizetti and Mahler; Verdi was three years old when Cenerentola was written! Mozart, had he lived, would have been only 60.

SDO: What was your introduction to conducting and how did you decide this was the path you wanted to pursue?

GTW: I was the keyboardist for the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston and one night for a major rehearsal the conductor, Tom Dunn an exciting Handel scholar, was stuck in a snow storm, I was on; I love making music with people and it went on from there. 

SDO: Fill in the blank - "If I was not a conductor, I would be a  __________" 

GTW: Gardener-farmer

SDO: What is a dream work that you have not yet conducted?

GTW: Since we are talking Rossini and since we are dreaming, I would have to say, William Tell--I've done excerpts in concerts, but of course even in Rossini's day, it was the rare exception to do the whole opera. Everyone is looking forward to the new production at the MET with Gerald Finley.   

SDO: How do you prepare your scores and how has that process changed over time?

GTW: Getting the best edition possible is key, understanding the text (Cenerentola has a delicious libretto), studying from the ground up every note, often at the piano--singing and playing away, understanding the structure-- the architecture, working with the concert master on the bowings, (the concert master in San Diego, Jeff Thayer, was very wise dealing with my ideas and worked very hard preparing our version along with your terrific librarian Courtney Cohen). Reading about the composer, his era, his orchestra and his singers gives a lot of information. I like to listen to lots of versions, to see the piece live if possible as often as possible, in our digital age the world is at our fingertips. I worked in several repertoire opera houses, New York City Opera, Canadian Opera Company and Santa Fe, etc. and seeing a piece over and over again with different casts and conductors is a great lesson, so I try to replicate that with a new piece. An opera particularly is a living organism and the cast influences the interpretation, so you must have your own vision, but yet you must be flexible and be responsive to the performers, that is the key. If anything has changed for me, I would say looking beyond the score has become as important now as looking into the score.

SDO: What are you most looking forward to doing in San Diego while you’re in town?

GTW: Working on La Cenerentola of course---and having delicious food! Like Rossini, I'm a foodie and I hear San Diego is the foodie epicenter. Bring on the fish tacos!

Stay tuned for an interview with Gary Thor Wedow with Dr. Nic Reveles in two weeks!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Podcast - The Operas of the 2016 Season

In the first podcast of the season, Director of Community Engagement Nicolas Reveles takes an overall look at the operas coming up: Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Great Scott. We've got a lot to look forward to!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

NIXON IN CHINA by Batton Lash

Dapper cartoonist extraordinaire, Batton Lash, stopped by our Nixon rehearsals last week and below you can find his drawings. For those not keeping up with Batton, Batton Lash is the creator of the humor/horror series Supernatural Law (aka Wolff & Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre). Lash has also written for Archie Comics and Bongo Comics. His latest project is The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse, a brand-new series Lash created for David (V for Vendetta) Lloyd’s online comics anthology Aces Weekly.  Lash also paints monsters in his spare time. His Bride of Frankenstein paintings will be on display at the Digital Gym beginning February 22. More on Batton Lash can be found at

Artwork © copyright 2015 by Batton Lash. All rights reserved.   

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

NIXON IN CHINA By Eric Shanower

San Diego Opera's official unofficial cartoonist, Eric Shanower, was back last week live sketching our rehearsal of NIXON IN CHINA and below you can see the fruits of his labor.

For those of you who have not been keeping up, Eric is still writing Age of Bronze, his comic book series that tells the complete story of the Trojan War, published by Image Comics. Currently being puclished by IDW also is a four-issue comic book series that he wrote, Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland with artwork by Gabriel Rodriguez. IDW is also currently re-packaging his Oz graphic novels in oversize volumes as Adventures in Oz. Forthcoming in September 2015 from HarperCollins is his short comics story "Love Packs Heat" in the anthology Taking Aim: Power and Pain, Teens and Guns edited by Michael Cart. Also coming in fall 2015 from Dover Publications is a new printing of his illustrated children's book The Giant Garden of Oz.

He's a busy guy. You can keep with Eric at his website

All artwork © copyright 2015 by Eric Shanower. All rights reserved